The House of Representatives voted by a 234-194 margin late Thursday to repeal the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military.
President Obama said in a statement that he was "pleased" by the House vote.
"This legislation will help make our Armed Forces even stronger and more inclusive by allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to serve honestly and with integrity," the president said.
The amendment to repeal the controversial policy was offered by Iraq war veteran Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pennsylvania, in the House's version of the defense authorization bill.
"When I served in Baghdad, my team did not care whether a fellow soldier was straight or gay," Murphy said. "Could they do their job so that everybody in our unit could come home safely. With our military fighting two wars, why on earth would we tell over13,500 able-bodied Americans that their services are not needed."
Republicans opposed the change, saying that lawmakers should've voted after the Department of Defense completed its review to see how the policy would be implemented smoothly.
"This is devastating to the war fighters and the combat infantrymen," Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, a former Army Ranger, said as the House debated the measure.
Earlier this evening, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 on a similar measure, opening the way for a forthcoming Senate vote on whether to repeal the policy.
According to both the House and Senate measures, any repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" would take effect only after the completion of a Pentagon Working Group study due Dec. 1, 2010. The almost year-long Pentagon review would detail how the repeal would be implemented and how it would affect service members.
The Senate amendment was approved in a closed session of the Armed Services Committee by 15 Democrats and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. It was attached to the annual defense policy bill and will be considered by the full Senate later this year.
Lawmakers who oppose repealing the ban and others who oppose repealing it this year would need 60 votes to strip it out. It does not appear that there are 60 votes in the Senate against repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
"The 'don't ask, don't tell' policy doesn't serve the best interests of our military. It doesn't reflect the best values of our country," said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, after the vote.
"Bottom line, thousands of service members have been pushed out of the military, not because they're inadequate or bad soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines, but because of their sexual orientation. And that's not what America's about. We judge people not on who you are or where you came from or what's your religion, nationality, race or gender or sexual orientation, I would hope, but on how you do the job," said Lieberman.
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Virginia, sided with most of the Republicans on the committee. He said he can commiserate with the plight of gay and lesbian service members who cannot be public in their sexuality, but he opposed repealing the ban until the Pentagon review is completed.
"I think its frankly a little disrespectful of the people who are serving to move before that survey came in," said Webb after the vote.
"I think there's going to be many people on active duty who feel like they've been cut out of the process," said Webb.